By Zach D'Amico
A slow start didn’t spoil Senior Day for the Saint Vincent College women’s basketball team.
After trailing at times during the first quarter, the Bearcats scored 18 unanswered points in the second quarter en route to a 77-53 victory against Chatham University on Feb. 15 in the Carey Center.
Saint Vincent concluded its regular season on a high note as it finished atop the Presidents' Athletic Conference with a conference record of 15-1 (21-4 overall).
The Bearcats earned the No. 1 seed for the PAC playoffs and will host the semifinals on Friday, Feb. 22. The Bearcats are slated for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
With perennial top-seed Thomas More College exiting the conference prior to the 2018-19 season, the Bearcats enter the post season as early favorites.
Jimmy Petruska, women’s basketball head coach, commented on his team’s mentality entering playoffs as the top-seed.
“There’s a couple ways to look at it. For us, we look at it as all the hard work we’ve put forth and all the time that we’ve had to travel on the road and try to win games here [at home]. That’s a payoff for us. But our mindset is not going to change.”
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing…you’ve got to focus on what you have to do and compete every game,” he said.
In the regular season finale, Chatham led, 13-10, in the first quarter, but Saint Vincent responded with baskets by Bri Van Volkenburg and Madison Kollar to close the quarter with a one-point lead at 15-14.
“We were on our heels. A lot of emotion…everything was scrambled with senior day,” head coach Jimmy Petruska of the Bearcats’ slow start.
The second quarter was when the Bearcats did their damage as they outscored the Lady Cougars 29-9 during that span.
Maria Morgan, senior, assisted Lauren Gamble on a backdoor cut to initiate an 18-0 run for the Bearcats during the second quarter.
Around the two-minute mark, Jenna Lafko found Morgan for a 3-pointer to put Saint Vincent ahead by 10.
A Paige Montrose steal led to a layup by Morgan, extending the Bearcats lead to 18 at 41-23. And again, Lafko found Morgan for another tray near the buzzer to give Saint Vincent a 21-point lead at halftime.
On her senior day, Morgan scored 10 of her 16 points (tied for the team-high) during the second quarter. Petruska commented on her influence during the team’s second quarter run.
“Maria is our leader. She’s our inspiration. She plays with all heart, all emotion, a lot of fire and intensity. So, when it’s your day and your team already adores you and loves you… it’s contagious. Since freshman year on she’s always been that kind of player,” Petruska said.
The Bearcats stayed hot in the third quarter as they outscored the Lady Cougars, 16-10, to take a 27-point lead into the final quarter.
Petruska said that switching to a man-to-man defense was key during his team’s dominant display in the second and third quarter.
“I think that our defensive energy transferred to the offensive side. We got some easy points in transition. I thought we relaxed more, too,” he said.
Chatham outscored Saint Vincent, 20-17, in the fourth, but the Bearcats stayed on course for a 24-point victory.
Kollar paced the Bearcats with a co-team-high 16 points. Taylor Boring added 10 points off three trays. Van Volkenburg notched 11 rebounds and four points.